I-T department probes PAN details of senior TMC leader’s wife
The finance ministry (which oversees the tax department) is the latest to step into what has become a political slugfest between the Trinamool Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party.Updated: May 15, 2019 07:27 IST
Income tax authorities are investigating discrepancies detected in the permanent account number held by Rujira Naroola alias Rujira Banerjee — wife of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew and TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee — which she apparently procured as an Indian citizen despite having a Thai passport, three government officials with direct knowledge of the matter said.
The home ministry has also been asked to investigate the Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card issued to her and her friend, Menka Gambhir, the officials added, asking not to be named. The finance ministry (which oversees the tax department) is the latest to step into what has become a political slugfest between the Trinamool Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, which are locked in an intense, and sometimes violent electoral battle in West Bengal.
It all started on the intervening night of March 15-16, when customs officials on duty at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport (NSCBI), Kolkata accosted the two women, who had arrived from Bangkok on the suspicion that they were trying to smuggle in something.
A tiff erupted, Rujira Banerjee made a call, and the state police appeared inside the airport to escort the women out -- without customs clearance. The Kolkata airport’s Air Intelligence Unit filed a FIR on March 22, a copy of which has been seen by HT.
The officials said that while OCIs can live and work in India indefinitely, they are expected to get PANs as foreign citizens and not as Indian citizens. After the customs department flagged these issues, the revenue department shot off a letter to the home ministry in this regard.
According to the letter, a copy of which has been seen by HT, Rujira Naroola (alias Rujira Banerjee) had been found with the passport and OCI card issued to her as a citizen of Thailand. The documents mention her father’s name as ‘Niphon Naroola’. “However, it has been found that for the PAN issued to Ms Naroola under the name of Rujira Banerjee, the father’s name has been mentioned as ‘Gursharan Singh Ahuja’,” the letter said, adding, while Gambhir’s has a passport and an OCI card as a citizen of Thailand, “it has been found that she has obtained a PAN as a citizen of India”. The home ministry is now asked to look into the issue.
TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee did not respond to an email seeking comment. A TMC spokesman, however, said the matter is politically motivated and continues the trend of “political vendetta” by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah against political opponents.
The three government officials quoted above said that the matter is of “serious nature”, “a breach of national security” and added that claims being made that the issue has been are not correct.
The last is a reference to media reports citing an RTI application filed by an activist with Kolkata Customs and the response, which states that no one has been detained or accosted in Kolkata airport thus far this year for illegally carrying gold into India
On May 11, the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) had issued a statement on May 11. It said the RTI application had sought information concerning “detention of one Ms. Jasmit Ahuja Banerjee (another name of Rujira Banerjee), and on the night of 16.03.2019 or in early morning of 17.03.2019 (and not in the intervening night of 15-16.03.2019 when the incident described above occurred). Accordingly, the reply of RTI was given with respect to the query on Jasmit Ahuja Banerjee”.